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As Carnahan mulls decision about 2nd District, Haas makes his move

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 23, 2011 - As area Democrats mull over what to do about a candidate for the 2nd District congressional seat, there's one point of certainty. Bill Haas is still around, and still running.

He plans to remind the party and the public of that fact by next week, when Haas -- who currently sits on the St. Louis School Board -- says he expects to be running his 5th radio spot since June highlighting his Democratic bid for the suburban 2nd District post.

The latest ad, set to run on station KTRS (550 AM), will focus on Haas' desire to end the suffering of farm animals destined for slaughter. "You don't have to be a vegetarian to care how animals are treated," Haas said.

A key plank of his platform, he said, will be to pledge to push for a federal law barring states from exempting farm animals from anti-cruelty statutes. "I want to end the abuse of animals on factory farms."

Haas said he recognizes that animal protection may not be on the same plain as the nation's economy or world peace, but he believes that it's one area where he might have an impact. "If I can make a difference in one issue in my political life, I would choose that issue,'' he said.

Haas, 67, has been a political gadfly for decades. He has degrees from Yale and Harvard, worked a series of jobs (he's now a part-time instructor at a high school and college) and once won the lottery -- blowing the winnings on an early bid for office.

Since the 1980s, Haas has made numerous quests for Congress and various posts in the city of St. Louis, including mayor. He almost always lost.

Fourteen years ago, he was finally successful when he won election to the St. Louis Board of Education. After serving eight years on the board, Haas sought to move on.

In 2008, Haas -- who lives in the city of St. Louis-- successfully won the Democratic nominee for the suburban 2nd District seat, then lost to Republican incumbent Todd Akin.

Last year, Haas sought to take on Akin even sooner by challenging him for the Republican nomination for the post. Akin won handily.

Haas then ran last fall for the St. Louis School Board, and once again captured a seat.

This time, with Akin moving on to the U.S. Senate, Haas believes he may have a shot as a Democrat for Congress -- unless U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-St. Louis, jumps in.

"I'm 99 1/2 percent sure that I will get out if Russ gets in,'' Haas said.

That stance is a key reason why Haas has sought to limit his spending. Since June, Haas has spent about $1,500 to run two ads apiece on radio stations KTRS and KMOX (1120 AM). Those ads focused on Haas' call for President Barack Obama to get tougher on Republicans in the debt ceiling negotiations.

Haas said his latest ad buy should be about $1,000. He wants to stay under the federal $5,000 threshhold for filing regular campaign-finance reports.

Although a congressional candidate doesn't have to live in the district they are seeking, it's usually good politics. Haas says he recognizes that, and hopes to get a residence in the 2nd District while retaining his current home in the city of St. Louis.

"I'd like to have it both ways,'' Haas said with a chuckle.

Aside from his pitch about farm animals, Haas also is campaigning that "Republicans are just out to protect their rich friends. It's OK with them if the rest of us are going to hell in a hand basket."

The 2nd District leans Republican, even after the new boundary lines go into effect with next year's elections. So far, the GOP contest consists of former Ambassador Ann Wagner and St. Louis lawyer Ed Martin.

Carnahan is considering a bid because the 2nd's new boundaries will include part of his current 3rd District. Carnahan's district is being eliminated, since Missouri is losing a congressional seat.

The 2nd District's overall GOP bent is considered the prime reason why Carnahan has hesitated to make a decision about a possible candidacy, even as he makes stops at businesses and neighborhoods in the 2nd to gauge possible support.

Haas contends that Carnahan should consider taking the plunge. "The right Democrat with money will have a shot against the wrong Republican,'' Haas said.

And if Carnahan won't make a stab at it, Haas says he will.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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